On Thursday night, it appeared wide receiver Antonio Brown was on the verge of being dealt to the Buffalo Bills, but that trade fell through. Then, on Friday evening, Brown teased on social media that he would be announcing his new team very soon, but Friday night came and went with no announcement. Finally, though, the third time was the charm, as Brown broke the news of his new 2019 employer on Instagram overnight on Saturday:
Yes, Brown will indeed be an Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Raider, and thus ends one of the strangest, most polarizing efforts to unload a player in the history of the NFL. The Steelers will receive a third and a fifth round pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft in exchange for one of the best wide receivers of this decade, maybe of all time. In the process, they do unload a gigantic headache for the organization, but take a $21 million dead money salary cap hickey in the process. No two ways about it, the Steelers took it on the chin.
The Raiders and head coach Jon Gruden, meanwhile, finally make a big move that affects winning in the short-term (as opposed to the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades, which were clearly long haul plays), and in doing so, will give Brown a brand new three year contract, worth up to $54 million, with $30 million guaranteed.
Contract details for new #Steelers WR Antonio Brown: 3 years, $50.125M, source said. Max value is 54.125M. He gets $30.125M guaranteed, more than the $0 he preciously had. The contract was he biggest hurdle.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 10, 2019
So essentially, they tore up the three non-guaranteed years Brown had left on his previous deal (for about $39 million, but again ZERO guaranteed), and make him, once again, among the highest paid wide receivers in football. Not bad for a guy who quit on his previous team in the middle of a playoff push in Week 17. Let's break this down:
Antonio Brown got over in nearly every conceivable INDIVIDUAL way
So let's add this up, and start with the Steelers, who are clearly the biggest losers in all of this. They are going to take a $21 million cap hit to NOT have Antonio Brown playing football for them anymore. Brown can be the biggest jerk in league history, and that still is unfathomably painful from a roster management standpoint. The Raiders, meanwhile, are better off than the Steelers, but the deal is not without sizable risk. They just made a wide receiver who will be 31 years old when the season starts the highest paid in football, a guy who quit on his previous team, and whose behavior has been beyond erratic over the last year.
For the record, over the last several months, Brown has:
- Quit on his team by skipping practices and meetings, and eventually getting benched in Week 17 with a playoff berth on the line
- Tossed furniture off the 14th floor balcony of his Florida apartment, nearly killing a two-year-old kid
- Been pulled over for driving over 100 MPH to a game in Pittsburgh
- Been involved in a domestic incident with the mother of one of his children, reportedly pushing her to the ground over a dispute over haircut money for their child
- Dyed his mustache blond (yeah, I know, is that really bad? No, but it is REALLY weird)
- Publicly and repeatedly acted very, very strange on social media. "Unhinged" is the word I would use.
Yes, the Raiders have now enabled THAT guy. What happens when the Raiders go 6-10 this season? How will AB handle that? I mean, he was miserable on a WINNING team. In the end, as long as he's cool with playing for a terrible organization, Brown got over on EVERYBODY. He acted like a complete lunatic and malcontent for the last several months, and got rewarded handsomely. Only in America!
It's time for fully guaranteed contracts in the NFL
I give Brown a lot of credit from this standpoint — he somehow managed to leverage what are typically the most vulnerable years of a player's contract, the last few years of ZERO guaranteed money, into a brand new contract with a brand new team, and stick it to his old team at the same time. That's not easy to do! It helps that Brown is really good at football. Bigger picture, I'd like to see this deal as an impetus to a larger movement where all contracts in the NFL are fully guaranteed. It would result in shorter deals, probably 2-year or nah 3-year deals, as essentially the league would just make the term of each contract span for whatever the standard guaranteed money amount has already, been, but getting rid of those non-guaranteed two or three years at the end of each deal would remove any contractual ambiguity that we now have on the back end of veteran deals. Right now, those years serve only to help the TEAM cap what a player can make in the latter years of a deal, and serve as a place for bad GM's to cram signing bonus cap money into future years.
Jon Gruden LOVES Antonio Brown (and here's the audio to prove it)
In case you're skeptical about how Gruden will get along with Brown, don't be....
Well, don't be skeptical, until Brown wants to murder Derek Carr by, say, Week 9 of the 2019 regular season.
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Oh, the Texans' schedule just got incrementally more difficult
Speaking of the 2019 regular season, the Texans play the Raiders this season at NRG Stadium, date to be determined. The urgency with which Texans GM Brian Gaine needs to approach the cornerback market in the draft and free agency just got amped up another notch. In case you're wondering, here are the marquee pass catchers that the Texans face now in 2019:
T.Y. HILTON, IND (twice)
TYREEK HILL, KC
TRAVIS KELCE, KC
ANTONIO BROWN, OAK
KEENAN ALLEN, LAC
JULIO JONES, ATL
MIKE EVANS, TB
MICHAEL THOMAS, NOLA
ROB GRONKOWSKI, NE